by Richard Gonyeau
The more I see the Red Sox, the more I like them. And by like, I mean hate. They arguably have the best 1-4 batters in the American League. The rest of their lineup isn't too bad either. Judging by Burnett's inability to get a one-two-three inning last night, I'm sure he'd agree.
Jacoby Ellsbury can be an absolute menace on the base path. Having led the league in SB in 2009, he clearly rattled the Yankee battery last night. Even if you manage to get past him, you still have to deal with Pedroia. Then Martinez. Then Youkilis. But despite giving up 4 runs (3 earned), Burnett was able to hold his own last night, never letting the game get too far out of reach. The pre-game buzz about his relationship with Posada was a non-issue. (Which is good, because if Burnett pitched poorly, we would never hear the end of it.) A win would have been nice in the stat column, but with someone as hot and cold as AJ, I consider last night a successful first start.
The real star of last night's game was the Yankee bullpen. Aceves was a rock, throwing 2 hitless innings for the well-deserved win. Middle relief is probably the least glorious of all baseball roles, (ok, maybe bullpen catcher) but Aceves' performance last night is a testament to how important a shutdown pitcher can be in the middle innings of a tight game. Joba looked fierce in the 8th when he struck out both batters he faced. I'm not sure what infuriated the Red Sox fans more, the K's or the 'in your face' fist-pumping action that followed. And of course, Mo was able to lock it down in the 9th as usual. We're so spoiled to have him closing games.
The Yankees patiently got the job done on offense as well. Standing in the box against Lester is never an easy task. To me, he's one of the best #2 pitchers in the league. He's very similar to AJ in his ability to make batters look foolish, but he seems to have much more poise even at a younger age. He wasn't unhittable however, and we were able to get 4 runs off him in 5 innings.
Against the Boston bullpen, Nick Johnson proved there's more than one way to get an RBI. Walking on a 3-1 pitch with the bases loaded to take the lead is clearly what Girardi had in mind when they brought him on board. A good eye goes a long way, and in this particular game, it proved to be the winning factor. Cano, A-Rod, Tex and Swisher also got in on the RBI action. Nicky Swish is getting off to a hot start just like last year. I hope he keeps it up.
A few interesting things to note about last night. 1. What was the deal with the time-out confusion? In the 2nd inning, Marcus Thames tried to call a time out. Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez didn't give it to him, so he had to hurry back in the box to face Lester. Later that inning, Jeter also tried to call a time out when at the plate. The ump didn't give it to him either. But Jeter, being the baseball icon that he is, forced the umpire to comply by stepping out of the box and holding his hand even higher in the air as if to say, "Hey, I'm Jeter. I called a time out, so... it's a time out." It was an uncharacteristic move by Jeter, but in his defense, Lester was nowhere near beginning his delivery. The time out should have been granted.
Is this a move by MLB to speed up the game? The announcers mentioned something about that, but I didn't watch the post-game to confirm. If anyone knows anything about this, please let me know.
One last note... two words: Daniel Bard. Yikes! Can that guy bring it, or what? I knew he could throw the heat last year, but I never saw him display the control he showed last night, particularly with the off-speed stuff. If he brings the cheese at 98, then drops a curveball in the zone at 82... well that's just borderline inhuman. He and Papelbon have the potential to be the strongest 1-2 punch to close games.
Yankees close out the set tonight in Boston. Red Sox will put their new stud, John Lackey on the mound against the Yankee great Andy Pettitte. I'd love to see the Yankees take this opening series before heading down to Tampa Bay on Friday.
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